So anyway, as the appointment was at 9.50 at Barnet General, I had the luxury of a lie in. My usual tasty breakfast of a bowl of fruit and a bowl of porridge was at 9am instead of 7.15 am. Was I worried? Not really. With no symptoms and good odds, I've all along felt that it is good to have the peace of mind of knowing. So off I went. As Barnet General charge an extortionate £4 to park, I always park 1/2 a mile away in a sideroad and walk. As I walked up Wellhouse Lane, with the autumnal wind blowing and the rain lighly licking my face exlaimed "It's a fine day for a hangin" with a grin, much to the bemusement of a nurse having a crafty fag.
As I enter the grounds of the hospital, I see someones Oyster card and library card lying in the bushes. I instinctively pick it up and hand it in at reception. "Thank you" the lady said. Always good to keep your Karma topped up on such occasions. As I was early, I had taken the Daily Express and read the views of Mr Yaya Toure on the current Manchester City team. He thinks that we have the two best teams in the premiership and that the second team would qualify for the Champions League. He's probably right. A good omen indeed.
Slightly early, my name was called. In I go and I sit down. The good doctor calmly announces "You had 10 sticks taken (Tissue samples). One from the left came back as slightly abnormal and one from the right right had 2mm of low grade cancerous tissue. We grade these on the Gleason scale and this is a 3/3, which is the most benign that we actually measure as a cancer". At this moment a rather strange thought popped into my head. Maybe I should write a song in 3/3 time in tribute to my problematic prostate. The cancer nurse was then summoned in to discuss all of the options. As there is a small amount of cancer and it is not of an aggressive type, it was suggested that a follow up biopsy and active monitoring may be the order of the day. I replied "I really did not enjoy the prostate biopsy and would rather have a look at another option if possible." The doctor asked whether it was the procedure or the side effects? - I replied "Both". He suggested that maybe a scan could help. This seemed sensible. He agreed that it may help indicate where a follow up biopsy could be best targetted. He then explained that approx 30% of post mortems of men my age who die of unrelated causes show similar early stage cancers. He explained that if it had gone undetected, I'd probably have had no symptoms for ten years. The good news is that as it has been caught early, it can be monitored and dealt with.
There are options for treatment immediately, but there are side effects and implications for these. Given that I have no symptoms and a non problematic cancer at the moment, my inclination is to wait. We discussed changes to diet. It seems that dairy products can irritate it (high amounts of hormones) and various foodstuffs - brocolli, Pomagranite juice, tomato, green tea and watercress have been reported as slowing tumour growth. Much as I love cheese, I think that this will now become a very occasional treat. I intend to read up more on the nutritional aspects of this and I will report them here. My strategy would be to have a scan to get a better assessment of tumour size. Assuming this doesn't spring a nasty surprise, have regular PSA tests and maybe an annual biopsy. At the time when it appears that the cancer is becoming less benign, I will then consider the various treatment options.
It is a bit daunting to be given the packs of info for MacMillan Cancer nurses. I feel a bit of a fraud and it all feels a bit unreal. The key thing is I'm not ill as such. I don't have symptoms, I don't feel unwell. If I make sensible lifestyle choices to my diet, it may have no effect on my life expectency whatsoever. What is odd is that I've always thought such news would freak me out, but I don't feel overly concerned right now. I've not discounted the fact that this could be denial, but I can't see what there is to deny.
I suppose the biggest irony of the lot is that as I typed this, an email from MacMillan Cancer relief popped into my inbox. It suggested I do this :-
My first thought? Is it morally acceptable to campaign for a charity, when you are a beneficiary (not that I'm going to be needing MacMillan support any time soon). I've long supported MacMillan and other charities, so I am not going to stop now. I'm minded to do this run and once again ask my generous blog readers, who helped us raise £500 for Cancer research UK earlier this year to dip into your pockets again.
We live in an age where we have the technology and the scientific means to deal with many illnesses that 100 years ago where lethal. In many cases the secret is early detection. I've had my problems diagnosed early. As such, all things being equal, I will live longer than anyone my age who has exactly the same condition as me, but finds out about it when the symptoms blow up in 5, 10 or 15 years. That is why we should all use the fantastic services of the NHS to ensure we are screened for such illnesses.
And a final word on the NHS. One of the questions I asked, as I have private health insurance trhough my company, is whether or not the treatment and prognosis was in any way different if I used my private medical insurance. I was most heartened that the response came back "Most certainly not. When we are dealing with Cancer we give you the best treatment we can regardless of your ability to pay for private treatment".
When I was told that I felt very proud to be British and very proud of the NHS.Today has been a rough day. I've had far worse though.